Radio’s Brain Challenge

radio on brainI often wonder if today’s youth would gravitate to the style of radio that attracted me to make radio broadcasting my career for five decades. Would they be attracted to a Dan Ingram, Robert W. Morgan, Dave Maynard, Ron Lundy, The Real Don Steele, Big Ron O’Brien, Larry Lujack or any of the countless other personalities that so influenced me as I was growing up?

Spoiler Alert: probably not

Old Brains vs New Brains

Our brains are wired by our experiences.

Those of us who grew up in the 60s, most likely had a transistor radio that only received Zenith RadioAM radio. Mine was a Zenith Royal 50 that came with an ear phone, that allowed me to listen to the Red Sox while in elementary school or to radio stations from far, far away after it was ‘lights out’ and I was supposed to be asleep.

This is an advertisement for that radio.

I saw it in Bristol, Tennessee at the “Birthplace of Country Music Museum.” I’m finding that a lot of my career memories are now museum pieces.

My brain was originally wired for AM radio, then FM stereo radio and all of the great radio personalities, promotions and stationality of that era.

More recently my brain has been wired for streaming audio and the convenience of playing anything that fits my mood via an Amazon Echo.

But anyone who has grown up in a world where streaming audio has always been there, has had their brain wired for only this kind of world, not the world of the 20th Century.

Classical Music’s Challenge

Classical music venues, including radio stations, are searching for new audiences as their current audience gets older.

With the typical American adult spending eleven-plus hours-a-day connected to media, today’s musical consumer can’t help but have their brain wired in a new way. Most of that listening is via computer speakers or wireless ear buds, not known for delivering the highest quality sound, but very convenient.

Classical music aficionados are all about quality of sound, so huge sums of money are spent building acoustically perfect auditoriums that often are in locations that are anything but easy for people to access.

People want to listen to music everywhere; in cars, on buses, on trains & planes, and while walking on busy city streets. They don’t mind that the sound quality is less than perfect because convenience for them rules.

Our Brains Re-wire Quickly

To give you an example of how quickly our brains can be re-wired, V.S. Ramachandaran did an experiment where test subjects were shown a group of black dots on a white page. After studying the dots, participants soon began to see the form of a dog. MRI scans were used during the process and monitored participant brains being re-wired. Once the dog was seen, participants could not look at the paper again without immediately seeing a dog. Their brains had been re-wired that quickly.

On Demand Entertainment

I’ll admit it, I want my entertainment – audio or video – immediately available when I want it. My radio and television habits are nothing like they were when I was growing up when the only media I could see or hear came through the ether.

Initially cable TV and the TV remote control re-wired my brain for television viewing, but nothing has impacted my home media entertainment habits like streaming and on demand. Be it audio entertainment via our Amazon Echoes (now numbering 3) or video entertainment via Apple TV or Firestick, everything now is on demand to match our mood thanks to streaming via the internet.

Is It Real or AI?

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has gotten so sophisticated that they are “paving the way for “deepfake” videos, content that falsely shows people saying and doing things they never said or did,” says CNBC.

Just the other week I read where James Dean, who died 64 years ago, will be starring in an upcoming movie about the Vietnam War. This has been made possible by the use of computer-generated imaging of James Dean.

A New Radio Format

Larry LujackThat got me to thinking that maybe a new radio format could be created bringing back deceased personalities like Robert W. Morgan, Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, Big Ron O’Brien, Ron Lundy, Larry Lujack among other greats by using the power of artificial intelligence. These incomparable radio personalities would “live again” via talented writers and programmers who would tell them what to say. Can you imagine how it might sound?

It would be like the “DJ Hall of Fame” on Rewound Radio, only the weather forecasts, the news, the community events etc. would all be current and up-to-date.

Which brings me back to how I started this article, would the radio listeners of today listen? Would their brains be so completely re-wired that they wouldn’t find it appealing? I fear they wouldn’t. Just as Vaudeville shtick stopped appealing to the generations of audiences with access to movies, television and radio.

In the end, doing something new means doing something fundamentally different.


If you’d like to know more about how advanced Artificial Intelligence has become, watch this five and a half-minute YouTube video. AI can clone your voice after listening to it for just 5-seconds. Click HERE

And for a really deep dive on how AI will change our future in ways we never imagined, watch this two-hour FRONTLINE report from PBS HERE




Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

14 responses to “Radio’s Brain Challenge

  1. Scott Cason

    “These incomparable radio personalities would “live again” via talented writers and programmers….”

    Have you seen the TV landscape lately? Where are these “talented” writers and programmers gonna come from?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gregg Cassidy

    It has been a slow rewiring process for you, me and many others who grew up with the excitement of the new technology of the 60’s; the transistor radio. I’m rewired, I watch very little traditional network television. I stream all of my favorite entertainment options on demand. I can’t wait until I don’t have to go to a movie theater to see a new release. My daily comedy blips come from funny Facebook post, My other quick video entertainment comes from Youtube stars. Youtube stars are today’s radio disc-jockey. Youtube lots of content with fewer commercials. Radio; very little to no content with lots of commercials. We know the formula to success, we just don’t have anyone who wants to create it. We have the tools to reinvent radio, but again no one wants to support the cost. I saw a Bloomberg interview with a person who was discussing “Disney Plus” and why it should become very successful. The things that this person said was the exact formula to the very successful radio stations of the past. Again, we can make it happen, but it needs financial backing. I’ve used this example before. The full service gas station of the 50’s and 60’s disappeared in the 70’s. Why? Keep cost down; quick, convenient, self service. There is more profit in selling soft drinks and road snacks than repairing an automobiles with the cost of employees and tools.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You Gregg. You made a lot of good points.

      We are also very alike in our streaming habits for TV. I was recently asked what my favorite network show was this season and I said, I don’t have one, because I don’t watch network TV. My television viewing is 100% on demand streaming.

      I can’t imagine myself ever going back to appointment TV. Not being into any professional sports, I don’t have a need for any of that programming — which I assume is best consumed LIVE.


  3. A big difference between then and now is social media being ubiquitous. The companionship that some of us got from the DJ has been supplanted by video games (interactive), Snapchat and TikTok. When I was growing up, most of us had our radio and stereo with albums. I didn’t have a TV in my room and neither did any of my friends. If we had all the distractions that exist today, there may never have been a Lujack, Landecker, etc etc as we came to know them, or they would have been stars in a different medium. Having said that, even back in the day, every last teenager wasn’t enamored with top 40 DJs. Some preferred the music and more low-key presentation of AOR/Progressive rock. In my school, plenty of folks were just as happy with the automated TM Stereo Rock presentation. Bringing back radio from the 60s and 70s? We are inundated with content from everywhere. I’m not as sure people are going to sit through several songs to hear a comedy bit, or a joke over an intro, when comedy bits are available everywhere on-demand.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Brad, I think what you’re saying is that we live in a world of short attention spans and the knowledge that as our mood changes — or attention span wanes — we know there’s just what we’d enjoy someplace else ON DEMAND.


  4. Rick Singel

    Dick, great column. Brought back good memories. Lying in bed and listening to Larry Glick or Pete Franklin was my daily routine. Like every old guy, I really miss those old, simpler days.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to agree with Brad Lovett. Certainly, those jocks mentioned are well loved still by our generation. And there are “elements” of that humor in some personalities of today. But, I’m not sure if a Lujack, Morgan, Steele, etc would translate to today’s young people.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have to agree Dick. Spent 44 years of my life working at AM radio stations, the first 6 years of my 40 at WABC working with the greats of the greats, but today the only place I listen to broadcast radio is in the shower! It’s SIRIUS/XM in the Honda, a flash drive with favorites in the old Mustang, and in the house, it’s the hundreds of CDs I digitized before we moved to the beach, playing off the Amazon Cloud through my Sonos WiFi system. I guess my brain has already been rewired! Saw a video of an Ellen Show where she had a Millennial try to do various things like dial a phone, type a sentence, and tune a radio in a boom box. Kid had no idea about AM, FM, or how to tune a station that Ellen gave her the exact frequency for. Glad I’m retired!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. incredibly thought provoking, Dick. Nice Work!

    Liked by 1 person

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